Young Announces Plans to Retire After 42 Years on the Hill

Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., speaks to reporters after a hearing on Benghazi.
National Journal
Billy House
See more stories about...
Billy House
Oct. 9, 2013, 10:01 a.m.

No Re­pub­lic­an cur­rently in the U.S. House has been on Cap­it­ol Hill longer than Rep. C.W. Bill Young — about 42 years.

On Wed­nes­day, the 82-year-old law­maker and former House Ap­pro­pri­ations chair­man let it be known he is re­tir­ing at the end of the term.

Young has been bat­tling ail­ments for a couple of years, in­clud­ing back prob­lems, and he re­in­jured his back on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to Harry Glenn, Young’s long-time chief of staff. “Needs (phys­ic­al ther­apy), so he will miss a few weeks” of votes and oth­er con­gres­sion­al activ­ity, said Glenn.

Though once one of the most power­ful men in Wash­ing­ton, Young re­mains in­flu­en­tial as the top Re­pub­lic­an on the de­fense ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee. His de­cision to re­tire was first re­por­ted by the Tampa Bay Times. He told the news­pa­per there are sev­er­al factors in why he won’t run for reelec­tion, in­clud­ing his health and his de­sire to spend more time with his fam­ily.

“I don’t know that I would pick out one thing. It’s a lot of things. My fam­ily, my job, my re­hab­il­it­a­tion from my back,” he told the news­pa­per.

Asked if the con­gres­sion­al grid­lock was a factor, Young re­spon­ded, “I’m a little dis­ap­poin­ted. It seems there’s too much polit­ics. It’s a dif­fer­ent Con­gress.”

As re­cently as in June, Young was still gear­ing up for an­oth­er term, des­pite grow­ing frus­tra­tions tied to de­fense se­quester cuts and his dis­ap­point­ment with the gen­er­al tone of con­gres­sion­al polit­ics.

As the longest-serving Re­pub­lic­an mem­ber of the House — he was first elec­ted in 1970—his is a ca­reer that’s in­cluded be­ing chair­man of the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee from 1999 to 2005.

He has been chair­man of the De­fense Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee since 2011, with sev­er­al pre­vi­ous stints in the same job.

Young’s de­par­ture may now set up a scramble by the GOP to keep what has been con­sidered a re­l­at­ively safe Re­pub­lic­an seat as long as he was in it — Flor­ida’s 13th — but could now be­come highly com­pet­it­ive.

Pres­id­ent Obama in 2012 won that dis­trict 50 per­cent to 49.1 per­cent over his GOP chal­lenger Mitt Rom­ney.

His de­par­ture also will strip the Tampa Bay area of years of polit­ic­al ex­per­i­ence and clout in Con­gress. From Young’s seni­or po­s­i­tions on the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee he has been able to steer hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to his dis­trict, the re­gion, and the state.

Aware that spec­u­la­tion has been sim­mer­ing for some time that his ad­vanced age and health could lead him to re­tire, Young has ac­know­ledged in past in­ter­views that he knows there has been talk that his wife, Beverly, or one of his sons, Billy, may run for the Pinel­las County-based con­gres­sion­al seat.

But Young, in the past, has said he doesn’t think Beverly would run.

However, he at times in­dic­ated his son is in­ter­ested. But Young has denied hav­ing made any prom­ises to hold on to his con­gres­sion­al seat to help im­prove the chances of suc­ces­sion.

In an in­ter­view five years ago, Young was already in­tro­spect­ive — if not evas­ive — about his fu­ture and when he would re­tire.

“I think you know when it’s time. How do you know? I don’t know how you know it,” he said. “But so many people have told me, ‘You will know when it’s time.’ “

Young said he’d already thought he had ac­com­plished a lot in Con­gress, in­clud­ing — he poin­ted out — es­tab­lish­ing a fed­er­al bone-mar­row re­gistry that has saved many lives.

But he ad­ded, “There are still some things I want to do.”

Young also speaks of be­ing dia­gnosed more than 13 years ago as hav­ing dia­betes, and of his hav­ing had open-heart sur­gery in 1996.

In 2005, term lim­its forced Young out of his chair­man­ship of the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee — a coveted and power­ful as­sign­ment be­cause it con­trols the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s purse strings. Back then it also gave him tight reins over a com­mit­tee be­cause of his con­trol of ear­marks — a tool cur­rent chair­men no longer have.

Then, Young lost the chair­man­ship of the de­fense ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee in 2007 when Demo­crats took over the House.

But he re­gained it in 2011. He would have re­quired an­oth­er waiver from House Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence chair­man term-lim­it rules to main­tain the sub­com­mit­tee chair­man­ship next year.

In 2011, Young con­tac­ted U.S. Cap­it­ol Po­lice to tell them he was very much still alive des­pite an in­cid­ent in which po­lice in his Tampa-St. Peters­burg-area dis­trict re­ceived an an­onym­ous re­port that he had died.

“Still alive and kick­ing,” the law­maker had to even­tu­ally in­sist from Wash­ing­ton by tele­phone, to per­son­ally squelch the ru­mor for a re­port­er at The Tampa Tribune. The news­pa­per had been tipped off by po­lice to pur­sue the po­ten­tial bad news.

On Wed­nes­day, col­leagues ap­plauded his long ca­reer.

“For the past 50 years, Bill Young has been a ter­rif­ic and tire­less pub­lic ser­vant for the people of Flor­ida. Wheth­er as a Flor­ida State Sen­at­or or Mem­ber of Con­gress,” said Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee Chair­man Greg Walden, in a state­ment. “As Chair­man of the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee on De­fense, Bill has been com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the lives of ser­vice­men and wo­men across our coun­try, and we are forever grate­ful for his com­mit­ment.”

And col­leagues from across the aisle, in­clud­ing those with­in the Flor­ida del­eg­a­tion, also praised Young.

Fel­low Tampa area Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., praised Young and his wife, Beverly, for “a tre­mend­ous leg­acy” in not only ad­voc­at­ing for the re­gion’s Mac­Dill Air Force Base, but “es­pe­cially his pas­sion for our mil­it­ary mem­bers, vet­er­ans and their fam­il­ies.”

“It has been a priv­ilege to serve along­side Con­gress­man Young, who is one of the most hon­or­able mem­bers of Con­gress ever to serve in the body,” said Castor.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×